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Beat poets and murder, too in 'Kill Your Darlings'

  • Daniel Radcliffe, right, stars as a young Allen Ginsberg as a college student at Columbia, with Dane DeHaan as classmate Lucien Carr in "Kill Your Darlings." Sony Pictures Classics

"Kill Your Darlings" is based on a true and troubling episode in the lives of these fledgling Beat Generation icons. A stalker, a stabbing, a body to be gotten rid of. The stuff of pulp, but it was real.

The events surrounding the death of David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall) are the dark heart of John Krokidas' headlong coming-of-age story.

Invoking Rimbaud and Yeats, inhaling nitrous oxide, speed, booze, cigarettes and coffee, Kerouac, Carr and Ginsberg dubbed themselves charter members of the "New Vision" movement, and proceeded to career around Manhattan, hitting jazz clubs, underground bo?es, and parties, parties, parties.

Krokidas' film captures the mania of the moment, and Radcliffe gives a smart, calibrated performance. His Ginsberg is a work in progress, still figuring out who he is, and who he wants to be.

The film doesn't waste a lot of time showing the poet, or his cohorts, hunkered down over their typewriters. They're too busy drinking up as much experience as they can.

If the film fails in presenting its subjects as fully formed characters, that's not the fault of the screenplay (by Krokidas and Austin Bunn) so much as it is the fault of Ginsberg and company. The Beats were inventing themselves as they went along, posing, posturing, and latching onto whatever struck them as radical, anti-establishment, cool.

"Kill Your Darlings" is a tale of inspiration, then, but also a tale of jealousy, obsession, homophobia and homicide. It's a whirlwind. Even if it doesn't all hang together, it's worth the ride.


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